Tag Archives: decorating

Our Lives in Ornaments

Our Lives in Ornaments: Continuing my Mother’s Christmas tradition of a new ornament each year to represent the past year of our lives.


Decorating our Christmas tree is one of our favorite parts of the Christmas season. I have my Mom to thank for a big part of that. Starting with my very first Christmas as a 6 month old baby, my Mom has given me a new ornament each Christmas to represent the  past year of my life.

Our lives in ornaments
Me and my Dad decorating the tree

When I turned 22, she didn’t give me an ornament and I was totally bummed. She asked me how long I expected her to keep getting me ornaments. I told her that I thought I would get ornaments from her forever and ever. She continued the tradition, which I’m pretty sure she still enjoys. (At least, I hope so).

When Paddy and I moved in together, she began getting ornaments for the two of us with our shared adventures in mind. Whenever we travel now, we also try to find a Christmas ornament from the country we’re visiting to add to our collection of dangling memories.

Decorating the tree each year is a trip down memory lane. We have a huge collection of ornaments now and the majority of them are meaningful. I won’t bore you with all of them, but here are a few of my favorites:


There’s the Washington State Ferry to represent growing up in Friday Harbor, WA

Friday Harbor ferry boat Christmas ornament
Friday Harbor ferry boat
Friday Harbor ferry
Friday Harbor


There is the school bus ornament from first grade when I rode the school bus for the first time all by myself. And the piano from when I took piano lessons in elementary school.

School bus ornament and piano ornament

Then there’s the bicycle ornament from 5th grade when riding my bike around the neighborhood with the neighborhood bike gang was all the rage. I even won a brand new 10 speed in a Sprouse Ritz coloring contest.

bicycle Christmas ornament

And, when the tween years set in and I was constantly tying up my parents’ phone line every night, Mom found me a phone ornament (complete with cute chipmunks)

Chipmunks and telephone Christmas ornament

1991-Getting my VERY OWN PHONE for my birthday
Me in 1991-Getting my VERY OWN PHONE for my birthday


When I was 15, I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer. My friend’s mother patiently gave me sewing lessons once a week after school. She was very talented. Alas, I was not. I can make curtains and hem pants. Below is the sewing machine ornament representing that year, next to the Christmas alien ornament we bought at the Little A’Le’Inn cafe in Rachel Nevada on our Nevada Road Trip in 2011,

our lives in ornaments

Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada, 2011


During my junior year of high school, I was an exchange student in Denmark, which is where my travel and adventure fever began. Mom gave me a little money to buy my own ornament so that I could get something to represent my exchange year. My Danish host family spent Christmas at their cabin in Norway, and we had Christmas Eve dinner with their friends in Lillehammer. I bought a Norwegian viking ship ornament. It was an amazing and unique Christmas that I will never forget.

Norwegian viking ship Christmas ornament

Norwegian Christmas dinner
Norwegian Christmas dinner
Christmas in Norway
Christmas in Norway, 1997
Cross country skiing in Norway
Learning to cross country ski in Norway– it’s harder than it looks!


When I was 20, I went to the University of Hawaii for a year in Honolulu on the National Student Exchange Program in college. Mom found a Hawaiian surfing Santa ornament for me.

Hawaiian surfing Santa Claus ornament

The University of Hawaii
Me at The University of Hawaii, 2002
Waimanalo Beach, Oahu
Waimanalo Beach, Oahu 2002


And here’s the college grad ornament she got me the year I finally graduated:

our lives in ornaments

our lives in ornaments
Paddy and I at my college graduation, 2004


In 2006 we went on vacation to Oahu, Hawaii and I showed Paddy around the island and neighborhood where I lived in college before we met. We picked out this Santa and Mrs. Claus in Hawaii ornament to represent us when we are old. Hopefully, we’ll be spending our golden years somewhere amazing and happy as well.

Santa and Mrs Claus in Hawaii ornaments

Snorkeling in Hanauama Bay, Oahu
Snorkeling in Hanauama Bay, Oahu 2006
Lanikai Beach, Oahu
Paddy on Lanikai Beach, Oahu 2006

Later in 2006 we got our cats as kittens right before Christmas. Mom got us gray and orange kitten ornaments.

kitten Christmas ornaments

kitten Christmas ornaments

It’s hard to believe they were ever so young.

kittens Gonzo and Finnigan
Gonzo and Finnigan
baby Finnigan kitten
Baby Finnigan


In 2008 we went and visited a friend in Chicago. Mom of course found the perfect ornament for us. Read about our Chicago trip here.

our lives in ornaments Chicago Christmas ornament

Chicago Cloud Gate sculpture

Chicago Cloud Gate sculpture
Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago
Navy Pier, Chicago
On Navy Pier, Chicago


In the summer of 2009, Paddy proposed to me while on a camping trip at Sol Duc Campground in the Olympic National Park. We both love camping and it was a perfect weekend. And yet again, Mom found a great ornament to commemorate our engagement year.

camping Christmas ornament

Sol Duc Falls Olympic National Park
Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park WA
Olympic National Park Lovers Lane Trail
Hiking Lover’s Lane trail at Sol Duc, Olympic National Park, WA
our lives in ornaments
Our Irish claddagh engagement rings from the Sol Duc campground gift shop.


At the end of the summer, we went to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for a week. I found a Dia de los Muertos skull ornament to add to our collection.

sugar skull Christmas ornament from Mexico
Ornament from Mexico
At Chichen Itza, Mexico 2009
At Chichen Itza, Mexico 2009
Tulum beach, Mexico 2009
Tulum, 2009


In 2010, we got married at my parents’ house in Friday Harbor. It was honestly the best day of my life. Mom came through with our ornament again. (You can read about our honeymoon in French Polynesia here)

our lives in ornaments wedding Christmas ornament

San Juan Island wedding
Photo by Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry
Photo by Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry
Photo by Jennifer Tai Photo Artistry


In 2012, we went to Ireland, Paddy’s top bucket list destination. We found a claddagh ornament to bring home (which goes with our claddagh wedding rings).

Christmas ornament from Ireland
Ornament from Ireland
At the Rock of Cashel, Ireland 2012
At the Rock of Cashel, Ireland 2012
Paddy at the Guiness Storehouse, Dublin
Paddy at the Guiness Storehouse, Dublin
At the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 2012
At the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland 2012


This last year, we went to Thailand. I found a key chain that I made into a Christmas ornament, which I bought at Cabbages and Condoms. More about that here.

our lives in ornaments Thailand Christmas ornament

Riding elephants in Thailand, 2014
Riding elephants in Thailand, 2014
At Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands 2014
At Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands 2014


I’m thankful to my Mom for a lot of things, one of them being that she began this tradition for me and continues it for both of us. Every Christmas is a time to reflect on our lives and all of our great memories of adventures past. Had we decided to have children, I would have done the same for them. Thanks Mom.

Seattle Christmas tree with ornaments
Our Christmas tree, full of memories.
Me and my Mom snow in Friday Harbor
Me and my Mom